Shenandoah County OKs roads plan

By Alex Bridges

Shenandoah County leaders adopted a list of road projects that state officials say should see some funding in the near future.

But the Six-Year Secondary Road Improvement Plan for the county as drafted by the Virginia Department of Transportation continued to spur questions and debate. The Board of Supervisors took up the plan that covers fiscal 2014-2019 at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The plan had not changed since supervisors and VDOT held a public hearing on the plan, said Ed Carter, a representative of the agency’s Edinburg Residency.

Supervisor Steven Baker recalled comments made recently by a resident about Crooked Run Road who said the route needs improvements. Baker indicated that he and Carter traveled Crooked Run Road. But Baker also asked Carter about other municipalities such as Frederick County that use a ranking system to set up its roads plan.

Carter explained that Frederick County’s rankings shift as the logistics of the roads change. The county’s ranking system takes into account traffic changes, motor vehicle crashes and other factors.

But this year the criteria for certain funding sources – namely the money for roads that receive at least 200 trips per day – caused Frederick County to rethink the ranking system, Carter said. Instead, the county had to put funds with projects that qualified for the different sources, he said.

Vice Chairman Dennis Morris asked whether the residents support Frederick County’s ranking system. Carter said he has heard some questions about why the priorities shift over time.

Baker said he would like to see Shenandoah County set up a ranking of projects at some point. Carter said it was too late for such an approach this year but the county could take this route next year if leaders so choose.

Supervisor David Ferguson said Shenandoah County should approach Frederick County to get advise on how to approach the ranking system. But Chairman Conrad Helsley said finding staff to perform the task may prove difficult.

Carter said Warren County drafts its plan in a way similar to Shenandoah County.

“Every county’s a little bit unique,” Carter said.

Supervisors also heard from Director of Community Development Brandon Davis who reported on economic development efforts as well as the work done by his office.

The building inspections office has made progress in filling a vacancy on its staff, Davis said. The director noted that the county also is moving forward on the creation of a storm-water management program. The county received an extension to create and implement the program by July 2014.

In terms of economic development Davis explained that much of the department’s efforts rely on the relationship the county and the Industrial Development Authority has with the private owners of the industrial property. The county owns little industrial land and as such has less control over how that land is developed, Davis explained.

“People are giving away industrial land,” Davis said. “It’s a climate like I’ve never seen and the textbooks don’t tell you about it.

“That is part of an incentive package that we’re not able to put on the table because investors own these privately held properties and that puts us at a disadvantage,” Davis said.

“A key to achieving the kind of development that you’ve identified as preferable on those privately owned properties is building those trusting professional relationships with the people who own them because we don’t have the legislative hammer or we don’t have the ownership rights to develop those properties,” Davis said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com